Sunday, 25 December 2011

Discerning life and birth

The baby Jesus enjoyed the special protection of the heavenly Father from the various life-taking sicknesses and the dreaded wrath of Herod - of course, Jesus had to endure the cold and dust of Bethlehem on his arrival day! However, not very many babies born in this world enjoy such privilege. I remember all such babies whom not even God defends.

I also remember all those who are privileged but do nothing worthwhile with their life, having survived the delicate infancy and early childhood. Jesus, spent the rest of his life, discerning and carrying on His Father's will. His end too was a choice He made in line with the Father's mission. How many of us take the trouble of discerning what God survived us for and of those who discern how many are willing to risk everything to live it out!

Thanks for everything so far and dear Lord, help me on this auspicious day to discern what is it that You want me to do and grant me the grace to live it the best way!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Dog-God fidelilty

Our house dog, Ginger, has been following me everywhere this past one week. With the Brothers gone, I'm its sole master. All night long it is outside my door and in the morning when I come out it has to do its joy-dance and then lead me to its kennel! But all along I have to follow it. If by chance it does not see me till it is inside the refectory, it retraces its steps back to my room.

Yesterday I left it out before our evening prayer. It also wanted to follow me into the chapel but when I commanded it to sit outside, it did so faithfully but not without some moans and groans and a couple of barks. And then as I sat for prayer facing the tabernacle, it sat at the Chapel door facing me - all the while.

I wish our fidelity to Christ is at least as deep as that of a dog to its master... wherever the master is, the dog prefers to be. It may not be the most pleasant of situations (as it is outside my room, freezing cold) but it is there that it prefers to be - for the only reason, that its master is there!

Swaddling clothes

This morning after Mass we, Frs KT, Wilson and myself put up the altar panel of Christmas in the Chapel. To give the finishing touches Fr KT brought a saree and just bundled it up before the panel. It reminded me of the 'swaddling clothes' that Mother Mary used to wrap baby Jesus up in he came into this world as a human. Today we use such torn and tattered clothes as a fashion statement while very many, like Jesus, had no other choice than that!

As I sit here typing these few lines, I hear all the loudspeakers blasting Christmas hymns from the different Churches around. Tomorrow there will surely be a big crowd here to collect their Christmas clothes! I wonder what Jesus himself would be feeling right now.

Friday, 23 December 2011

The New Islamic-Catholic Saint...

I finished correcting a bundle of exam papers pertaining to the Medieval Western Philosophy class that I took in Bangalore some time ago. As usual there were many 'new insights'. However, I share only the best:
St Anselm was a muslim Philosospher...
If I had any influence, I'd have warmly recommended this Brother's name to the Vatican so that they may appoint him as the head of the department which deals with inter-religious dialogue and canonisation process.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Gol gappe

When I was in Vizag the other day, waiting for Fr Rector to do some purchasing and waiting outside a shopping mall, I noticed that a guy selling gol-gappe (sort of indian fast food) just outside the mall. Now that's no surprising scene for an Indian market area. What surprised me was the brisk business he was doing right outside a large shopping mall! During the 15 minutes or so that I spend there, I noticed people coming in for a round of this - I've not tasted this myself - at least three posh vehicles. At first I thought that they would enter the mall. No! They solemnly and very leisurely had their share and then drove off!

Perhaps this is how life works... in weird ways and in strange directions. I remember Willy's craze for that bhel-puri when I was in the Philosophate (as a student). Every time I came home for holidays he would rush to get this 'delicacy' for me... knowing very well that I never even taste it!

I suppose this variety of tastes and choices makes life interesting and enriching. Imagine if everyone were like me, wondering what the hell is this all about, then that poor gol gappe vendor would be jobless and would have to search for some other means of feeding his family. Thank God we're not the same!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Driving along...

It's been four days of continuous driving - of course, not all day and night, but at least for a good part of the day. Yesterday night, I was for once, tired of driving! Among the many positive things of driving, I now know more or less my way around the whole city of Vizag. I can fairly manage to spot, shop and of course, navigate (even through the crazy Kanaka Mahalaxmi temple entrance area).

Another great advantage of travelling around is that I get to see people and things which I can never imagine or dream of. Like the place where I parked the vehicle last this morning... there was an ATM with a shabbily scribbled note on its glass door, "Out of service" and the guard there very dutifully at his post (God knows what he was guarding!). Or for instance the parking woes... in order to avoid paying the fully parking fee, I kept the engine on and waited for a couple of minutes more after having dropped Fr Devadas at the airport. It was a little over 8 minutes when Fr K.T. returned after seeing him off at the entrance. But the sentry at the exit would not let me pass through without paying the full amount. His argument: "Drop and off, duration is only 5 minutes!"

Anyway, all that important trips related to Christmas are over and all things done and over with. I also pray for our driver Satyam who is admitted in the hospital and is undergoing treatment for pneumonia. Mother Mary help him!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Photos of 2010-2011

Among the many things that I'm trying to catch up before I leave for my Christmas holidays and before I get lost in the plethora of community activities on my return, I manage to finish one: sort out and make a short collage of the photos of the previous academic year (2010-2011). Not that it is totally complete (I need to add captions) but at least it is there.... and here for you!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Christmas crib

Here's the crib that our first years prepared in a good time of just two weeks of spare time - that's a very rare commodity here at Kondadaba! The facade is that of a candle and the idea being that Christ is the light of the world. They did it beautifully. No extravagance or unnecessary elements just for the sake of it. It looks good. The Brothers too were happy with the final outcome.

Knowing well that I wasn't keen on spending money, they would think a million times before approaching me. And when they did approach me it would be out of sheer necessity. That being the case, I'm happy with what they prepared. Good use of time and ideas - quite economical too.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Good deeds return

Yesterday while in Vizag for some marketing I went in the photo studio to pick up some photos and an album that I had given a couple of days ago. While making the payment, I realised that the lady at the counter had paid me much more that I had paid her, instead of giving me just some change. I realised that she had miscalculated and then returned the extra. She still wasn't sure (must have had a bad day in the shop). Anyway, she calculated the whole stuff again and gave me the change - but again, more than I was due. I gently told that her that she had again given me excess money and showed the calculation myself. She did not know what to say. I just gave her a gentle smile and came out.

For once when she first handed me almost double the amount I paid her, I had for one fleeting moment to just pocket the amount and walk out of the shop. But then I somehow couldn't and wouldn't. And this morning, that good came around when I overpaid the gas serviceman. I had no idea that I had overpaid him, until he returned after a couple of minutes to tell me, "Sir, you gave me too much!" He could have very well walked off the campus with that excess money and I would have been totally and blissfully unaware of my miscalculation... but somehow he had the goodwill to return the excess.

No wonder people say that a good deed comes around.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

It's a wonderful world


3 Idiots and passion

I screened for the Brothers the movie 3 Idiots tonight. Surprisingly there was a large crowd watching it right till the end. I know not how many of them really understood what it was all about - you see only one (of the 74) of them understands hindi! However, I did put out the summary of the plot earlier and also gave an introduction to the movie.

I asked them to watch and enjoy the passion driven personality of 'Rancho' (Aamir Khan) as he instils accompanies his friends to realise their true vocation. Most of us in life, think we have it all if we have enough bank balance and status in society. Whether our innermost being is truly at rest and are we living the life we are to truly live, is a fact most never even think about. Besides all the insight the movie offers about education and modern youth, this idea of following your passion with determination and joy is something I enjoy most.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Pleeeeese....

Dodging the hectic traffic in and around Vizag today, where I went for purchasing essentials and other petty things, I found ourselves following a water tanker behind which was ... (what you see in the photo). I immediately pulled out my mobile and clicked the photo. Satyam (our driver) was unable to see what is it that I clicked! I told him that it was a wrongly spelt word on the bumper of the water tanker. He asked me I was going to use it to tell the Brothers something about the proper use of language? I replied in the positive and while explaining further, I was struggling for words (in Telugu). At one moment it struck me: if only Satyam was sharp and able, he would have recorded my broken telugu (thank God his mobile does not have that facility) and posted that 'amusing' explanation on his blog (thank God, again, for he does not have one!).

As with regards to the clarity of the photo... well it's a photographic evidence of the pollution in the city of Vizag!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Christmas Message

At Mangalapalem, my message for the kids was the following: Gift someone something non-material, rather than something in cash or as commodity, and that too keep it a secret. I cooked up a story and kept them attentive. They were all ears. Through the story I told them how helping Mummy pack lunch for Daddy could be a gift to both of them. How helping someone without their knowledge brings great thrill - and certainly the pain of foregoing or missing out on something for oneself is totally vanquished.

I too wish to follow the advice I left them with: Gift someone secretly. The Sisters were surprised to see this aspect of my personality. They were all set for a very formal and rigid 'chief guest'.

Kids at Mangalapalem

I'm just back from St Ann's School, Mangalapalem where I was tricked into being the chief guest for their anticipated Christmas celebrations. I was invited only to give a short message but the whole programme was not told to me. Anyway, I'm glad I went. Furthermore, I was lucky not to have classes here in the Seminary this day. After long got to see a children's programme - small kids, I mean. Reminded me very much of Mummy and her tiny trots. The angels were the most fascinating. Here is a photo that I could not resist clicking sitting right infront... This pair was the most active and alive one of the whole batch, on and off the stage!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Applying thought to...

For my students of metaphysics I gave them an assignment today. I first asked them to list down the various metaphysical principles that we discussed or came across during the course so far. They now need to pick up just two - any two - of them and apply them to the theme of the debate that we are going to have exactly a week later. The debate is about the lokpal bill and its efficiency in eradicating corruption in India. Having said this, one look at their faces would clearly show that they had no clue as to what I was asking them to do. Given their concept of study and learning, applying learnt ideas to life is something they are totally alien to. Their study begins and ends with and for the exams.

I realise that one of the reasons why philosophy appeals to me is that I'm able to see the indepth connections and linkages between thought and life. To me they are just too evident to be ignored. However, I also realise that not all see this connections. Or rather, let me put it in a better way - not all see the same connections. Some see different links while some don't bother to see at all. My attempt is to help them taste philosophy and see that it is not a waste of time. This is possible only when they see that reflection has a profound impact on life and living.

Intellectual impotence

Did you know the reasons for divorce? Well, I thought that I had them all figured out, more or less, till this evening when I was going through the paper of one of my students. Speaking about the reasons for divorce in Hindu tradition here's what I was 'enlightened' with...
The grounds for divorce among some early Hindu groups were ill-treatment, continual quarrel, importance of husband...
On showing him this flaw, he looked at me with such equanimity that I felt ashamed! He was totally oblivious of what 'importance' meant in this context, and as for 'impotence' it goes without saying he had absolutely no clue as to what I was talking. For such is the intellectual impotence of some great guys!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Kandi harvest

Here's the fruit of our labours ... and my first farming experiment! The partly harvested kandi (Telugu word for dal) crop. Hope to get something for at least a month's consumption. However anything more than a 1kg is a profit given the fact that the seeds cost me Rs 650 in all. No monetary investment at all over that. The only other investment was our own labour of planting and weeding it. God provided for the rest! (In the backdrop is our Seminary Chapel.)

Monday, 5 December 2011

Modern Insights

I found some interestingly new historical events and philosophical insights in the class test papers of Modern Western Philosophy:
Father of Modern Natural Science? Aristotle

Name some eminent literary giants of the Renaissance era: Shakes Spheres, Gold Smith, William Words Worth and William Smith.

During the Renaissance we see raped (I pray he meant 'rapid') growth...

Here are some of the titles suggested for the work of Nicholas Copernicus (the original is On the Revelation of Heavenly Bodies):
The Salvation of heavenly bodies
The revolution of heavenly bodies
The Re-evaluation of heavenly bodies

This is for Teilhard de Chardin: Teilhard said that Christ died for no one. (no wonder why the Church was after him!)
These were the best of the lot...
Of the three major developments during the Renaissance here's the most mind-blowing (originally, the invention of the printing press, the invasion of Constantinople and the Reformation led by Martin Luther):
The invention of the Muslims
The investigations of the Muslims
The Protest March against Muslims (Protestant Movement)
Muslims conquered Noble Constant (Constantinople)
Muslims invented on the Constentnopele

Sunday, 4 December 2011

... say it with hay

Last week I proposed to my community an idea that was implemented while I was at Matunga, for our preparation for Christmas. The idea was given by one of our school boys' parent. The idea is this: For every good deed you consciously and joyfully do, you drop in a straw (just one) at the altar, anytime. At the end of the Advent season, the straw thus collected (a representation of the good deeds done in the Lord's honour) will be used in the crib, in the exact spot where baby Jesus will be placed.
I distinctly remember this idea catching up with the children at Matunga like wild fire. Within a couple of days, another basket was added to collect hay at the altar. Children in their innocence and eagerness would be very sincere and so enthusiastic about doing a good deed - however small or petty it might be.

Just another way of reminding ourselves of the need to prepare - and that too worthily - for the Lord's b'day!

Discerning God's will

The central figure of the Second Sunday of Advent is John the Baptist... a very remarkable character. Straight and clear about who and what he is. No bending backwards. No scheming. Just a clear and single aim: preparing the way for the Lord. Thinking of this, I wonder if life was very boring for him? Just one mission in life, nothing more, nothing else! Far from boring, it must have been very very adventurous. That he had this special commission does not mean, he did nothing else... just that everything he did or said was coloured by this priority of preparing the way for the Lord.

Another important feature that struck me today of this person, John the Baptist, is his recognition of himself. He discerned well what God wanted him to be and do - that he did best. Most of us, try to be Jesus Christ, the Saviour or follow a hero or a model and try to be like him/her, emulate our elder siblings, wish we were more like our favourite teacher or leader. In this whole process, we barely take time to see who and what we are within. Imagine a world in which everyone became Jesus Christ! I believe each one is called to play his or her role. And wisdom consists in discerning what is it that God wants me to be and do.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Carved forever!

This evening three of us from Kondadaba attended the blessing and inauguration ceremony of the Salesian residence at Peddaboddepalli, Narsipatnam. When I saw the commemorative plaque my hand instinctively went for my mobile camera... here's why! Check out the last thickest line...
Now this is called carving memories (or mistakes) on stone!

Here are the photos of the newly inaugurated building and the blessing...

Friday, 2 December 2011

Living rightly

It isn't living that is important, but living rightly!
That speaks for itself, I guess.

Efficient cause of a book?

Trying to elicit an example for my explanation of Efficient cause and its types (Principal and instrumental), during my metaphysics class, I had to face this:
One of them stated that book is the effect and the book binder is the efficient cause. I asked him if there could be any other efficient cause besides the binder. Very soon one of them replied, "Salesman!" Everyone burst out laughing!

Happy for the crunch

For everyone outside Kondadaba, at least in the Province, being the Administrator here in this house is a really coveted position. Not just because it is not strictly a Salesian house, but somehow the idea that this is a well furnished and financially well off community has been prevailing long since. However, this year the picture is totally different. Of course, none would believe that. But I have accept that being the administrator here has been a real blessing. With such a financial crunch, my basic conviction of religious life is proving true: life with the least amount of money will be more truly religious and the focus will certainly be on aspects that really should be the focus. Furthermore lack of surplus funds - or even adequate funds - brings the community closer to one another and really binds individuals in work.

The response of the community too has been really great. The personal semester evaluation was truly very revealing... not one of them complained about food, not one! This is the first time in my religious life that I do not hear one complaining of food - and that too when I'm the administrator! (I remember the dread that overshadowed the Brothers in Karunapuram when someone stirred a rumour that I would be appointed as the administrator there, soon after my practical training.) The way the Brothers, Fathers and staff have pitched in their efforts and taken this financial crunch is truly very encouraging. I'm sure this would not have been possible if we were to have ready cash at hand!

Thank God for this financial crunch... we are able to work better, pray better and relish every grain of rice that reaches our mouth.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Metaphysical humour 2

Here are some more metaphysical "insights" from the class test...
Why is metaphysics called the First Philosophy?
Because it is the theology of all philosophy!

Appreciating Andrew

Fr KT in his sermon this morning spoke of St Andrew, the saint of the day. Among the several things he said, what struck me was the fact that Andrew, along with John, meets Jesus, at the instruction of John the Baptist, spends a night with Jesus and by morning makes this bold proclamation to his brother, Peter: "We have found the Messaiah!"

Most of us spend a lifetime and yet with no guarantee that we would realise this fact. Yet here is is a person who spends just an evening with the Lord and is able to recognise Him. Two things that emerge out of this event:
  1. The powerful personality of Jesus
  2. The openness of Andrew to recognise the Lord, when he meets him. The fact that he was with John the Baptist, prior to this, could have very much facilitated this discovery.
How I wish I could be more like, Jesus (convincing because of personal integrity and convictions) or at least like John the Baptist (able to recognise and lead people to Jesus) or in the least like Andrew (to be able to recognise Him when I meet the Lord and courageous enough to admit it openly).

Flywheel and...

Last night I watched the movie Flywheel (2003). Not a very exceptional movie but all the same, good message and well presented too. Of course to those who do not trust much in religion and God, this may be an overdose of facts, but otherwise the message is clear... may be a bit exaggerated (which movie isn't) but worthwhile all the same.

It shows the life of a dishonest car salesman, who decides to changeover and become honest in his dealings... with surprising results not just for his business but for his relationships as well.

Well that's not what I wrote this post for. In the movie there is a Psalm that is often quoted. And call it whatever you may, this morning as I woke up, I found the same Biblical verse on my sms inbox. And mind you, I never ever receive any such smses! That was something that really surprised me while I was still in bed and looking at my mobile to put off the alarm!

Delight yourself in the Lord and he shall give you the desires of your heart. (Ps 37:4)

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Fr TV's b'day photos


Here are a couple of photos of Fr TV Thomas' b'day celebrations held on Nov. 27 at Devipuram. During the celebrations I remembered that I could very well use by mobile camera to capture the joyful moments. Quite handy!

Metaphyscial humour

Here are some more "insights" from the class test papers that I'm still going through...
Define Change.
Change is miserable movement from place to place...
(I guess he meant 'measurable')

Give an example for a metaphorical analogy.
Ravi is a dog.
Explanation of the same: It does not mean that Ravi is God but his nature is God nature.

Why do we fail to see beauty in every being?
Because our thinging is limited and we accutom to see rong way.

What is the connection between existence and essence?
Existence exists by itself.

Give an example for intrinsic accidents.
One person is becoming fact and fact, it happens in being.
(emphasis added) Those were some insights into contemporary metaphysics.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Advent and preparation

We began the season of Advent yesterday. During Mass I was reminded of my old doubt: why at all have preparation for Jesus who is always and already amidst us? Is it like we'll have to get rid of Him and then solemnly welcome Him at Christmas... just for the heck of it? However, as I mulled over this resurfacing doubt, I was reminded of our Seminary Day which was held last week. It is an annual feature and we do prepare for it in earnest. It left me wondering, that we spend so much time and energy preparing for a regular feature of this kind and barely take time to prepare and spend time with Jesus, our Lord. In this context, Advent gains a remarkable meaning: time for preparation; for appreciation; for a 'personal retreat' so that when we celebrate Christmas we really feel fresh and good about being in the presence of the child Jesus. The season of Advent gives us that lovely opportunity to prepare for Lord; to welcome and truly make ourselves worthy of being His abode.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Happy b'day: Fr T.V. Thomas

Today was the b'day of Fr T.V. Thomas. We had the celebrations at Sabbavaram this evening. Quite a few people were present for the occasion. The boys, as usual, were very excited and energetic. They did put up some good programmes. The hand of the ex-Seminarians working there was evident in the type and quality of programmes that were put up. More than anything else it was good to meet and greet TV Thomas. Over the years, we've grown to understand and appreciate each other better. I've known him since 1995 when he was appointed administrator of the novitiate while I was still a novice. Then during my Practical training at Karunapuram he was the Rector of the neighbouring Diocesan community. Our three years together in the Provincial house was the time that really bonded us.

As I told the boys this evening, he is like the sandalwood tree, which shares its fragrance even with the axe that chops it to pieces. Not that greatly appreciate this virtue and wish to emulate it, but the fact remains, Fr TV has a great deal of patience and equanimity to accept things and look forward to better times. Meeting him and talking to him is always refreshing and enriching. (File photo: Fr T.V's b'day celebrations while we were together in the Provincial house in 2009)

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Life cycle or cycle race?

Here's one line from the paper that I was correcting this morning:
Man's life is cycle from birth to death.
No wonder my Brothers get so tired and weary after every paper! So much of cycling to do!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Courage to bring about change

The most famous episode of Prophet Daniel is a very enriching one. We had it this morning for the first reading of the Mass. Daniel, a foreigner, with a totally different attitude and culture and that too a slave rises in rank and name... and in the process makes some locals jealous. Yet he does not give up his faith or courage. He trusts in Yahweh and stands firm by his convictions. Even in the face of death and doom he holds firm. Ultimately he manages to convince the emperor and thus the whole nation turns to Yahweh.

It's a very rare combination of faith, courage and luck that sees him help a whole nation adopt his attitude. Most often we get merged in the popular or major attitude. For an individual or a handful to stand and get the whole group to recognise, appreciate and live by these values is truly a remarkable feat.

To Borra caves

Yesterday after much pleading by Fr C. Thomas, we went for a picnic to Borra Caves. It is a place about 55 kms from here and is famous for its natural cave. I had been to this place about 12 years ago. However, of all days, yesterday was a day of 'hibernation' as per my schedule. The Brothers had a day of outing by themselves and hence I had decided to catch up with my lost sleep. Anyway, I went along but it was tiring and literally sickening. The only good thing was that Fr C. Thomas was happy and so were the Sisters whom he had long ago promised this trip.

On the way I came across the following sign board at a railway crossing and could not resist the temptation of clicking it with my cell-camera.

Seminary Day 2011

It's been a while since I posted something. Just that I was too caught up with the preparations of the Seminary day (Nov. 22, 2011). Thanks to all the heavenly and local help it went on as planned and the play which I was keen about came out beautifully. More than anyone else, it touched me most since I was with it since the conception onwards. The guests who witnessed the play too were very happy with the presentation. Among the many compliments I received the one that I liked best was when one of the Priests mentioned that it has been long since he witnessed the Brothers put up an English play. For me too it was a pleasant surprise that Brothers could manage and deliver dialogues in English. I just did not want it to be translated into Telugu (which certainly would have been much easier for the Brothers) for the reason that I did not want them to hijack the message. I wanted to retain the message without it being clouded and drowned under the plethora of subtle messages that the Brothers' unconsciously deliver.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Amoral

Here's something I just cannot stop laughing at since I first heard it from Fr Wilson, the Principal and professor of Moral Philosophy. In his class test he asked the Brothers to write, in one sentence, the meaning of a couple of key words in Ethics. One of them was 'amoral' and here one of the best answers he received:
amoral = the moral actions of animals is called amoral.
Perhaps this is the reason, some are heard complaining that morality has gone to the dogs!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Choices and Values

One of the points that appealed to me from the recollection talk of Fr Tom was the following:
Our choices are a reflection of our inner value system.
True indeed. However the vice versa too works just fine. Our value system gets built up and strengthened by the right choices we make.

There surely is a great connection between concepts such as attitudes, values, choices, optimism and spirituality. Perhaps the latter is a baptised version of the former.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

A journey of 9 steps starts afresh with a whistle

As Nau Kadam Express chugged out of Kanyakumari station the Fourth Phase of `Nine is Mine` Campaign by children demanding 6% of the GDP for Education and 3% for Health got off to a great start blessed by children from Neighbourhood Parliaments from Kanyakumari. The contents: 9 children, 9 days, 9 cities, 9 states, 9 demands and the determination to get 9% for children`s Education and Health. The Rally was flagged off by Sri Balakrishna, the Dy.S.P. of Kanyakumari. The rally will reach New Delhi on 19th having passed through Madurai, Chennai, Rajamundry, Bhubaneswar, Kolkotta, Ranchi, Kanpur. Read more...
(submitted by Fr Pallithanam Thomas)

Friday, 11 November 2011

On the stage...

Last Sunday while animating the group of young religious, I challenged them to move out of their comfort zones and do something different, as frequently as possible. I asked them to recollect as to when was the last time they surprised themselves? As I said this I did some introspection myself and felt happy that after long I did script a play... a short one though, for our Seminary day. Today we began the practice in earnest. And it was great to get to show the Brothers how to deliver the dialogues accompanied by the right expressions. Reminded me of my days at Yercaud and Nashik.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Nishkamakarma and a sense of gratitude

Commenting on the Gospel of the day, Fr Wilson spoke of nishkamakarma, a concept found in the epic Mahabharata and of great importance in the Philosophy of karma. However, I was not very convinced by his connecting nishkamakarma and expecting a sense of gratitude, just on the face of it.... or rather equating them on the same level. Nishkamakarma truly means not expecting the fruit of the work but focussing on the work itself. The understanding is that results will automatically follow. One needs to be detached from the fruits and concentrate on the task at hand. (something akin to Immanuel Kant's Categorical Imperative, though not necessarily the same). That said, 'expecting' gratitude is another theme altogether. I certainly do not work to be praised or thanked! But on the part of the one who receives or benefits, it is courtesy or sensitivity to acknowledge the benefit, even if it means just saying 'thanks'. Gratitude is from the part of the receiver not the doer.

Applying this understanding further, I realise that our very Eucharistic celebration would be rendered meaningless, if we say that God did what He was 'supposed' to do, it was His 'duty'. He certainly does not need our thanksgiving (this is true). But we who are the beneficiaries, ought to express our gratitude for all His graces. The doer (God) can practice nishkamakarma but gratitude is from the part of the receiver (us, Human Beings), not the doer. Similarly, being in a formation setting, we ought to teach our wards to grow in a sense of gratitude. Certainly that does not mean that we work merely for that gratitude alone! (If the latter were the case, genuine formators would be an extinct species by now!)

Monday, 7 November 2011

Animating the CRI, Vizag

All the effort made in preparing for the young Conference of Religious, India (CRI) Vizag unit was worth it as I had an enriching experience interacting with the group of 60 young (and some senior) religious working in the Archdiocese of Vizag. Unfortunately it was an all female group except for two Priests who happen to land up there by some miscommunication but stayed on till lunch time. Somehow I had planned the whole programme on a very interactive mode, with games and songs. I used the platform of fun to drive home the points I wanted to really convey. In a sense, it helped. I realise more and more that those for the consecrated life cannot bear or are unwilling to take on real challenges but would rather be quite light and carefree about life.

All said and done, it was a good exercise for me and I enjoyed it. After long I had this chance and it flowed as planned too. I took three sessions and each session was on a particular theme (but all interlinked): self discovery, taking risks and realising that there always exist choices.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Spiritual Cacophony

This morning I had to but undergo a 'spiritual' torture. In the absence of Fr Rector, who is a great fan of Charismatic prayer, I had to accompany the Charismatic group to a neighbouring Parish where they were to animate a three hour charismatic prayer. I went along just because Fr Rector asked me to and there was no way I could wriggle out of it. I stayed put in the Church till it 'kick-started' and then slowly made my way out of the Church onto the drive. The rest of the two and half hours I spent walking up and down on the drive. But even there the sound was clear and loud... deafening, in fact. So was the 'preaching' of the Brothers. However, most of the time it was real cacophony... everything happening at the same time, the preacher preaching, the choir singing, a couple of them 'calling on the Lord' and to add cream to it all, was the keyboard player who was testing every key on the board forgetting that it was connected to the amplifier all the while!

Frankly, I knew I should be out of the Church when there is a service in progress and that too when my own Brothers are animating it. However, I just couldn't stand it. Certainly charismatic prayer is not my cup of tea. My understanding of prayer is far removed from anything so 'charismatic'. But thanks to this trip, I got to spend sometime talking to the Lord, besides trying to find out how He bears up with all of this!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Preparing for the 'Kingdom'

I almost finalised the theme and the main storyline of the Seminary day programme. I have drawn inspiration from Fr Maria Arokiam's Gospel at a tangent to formulate the ideas of the presentation. I need to get the flesh on it and hope to get some assistance from the Brothers tomorrow. It is basically to quell the idea that heaven or the Kingdom is up there or beyond us. The play describes that the Kingdom, far from being a place or position, is a state of life lived according to values. I drive home my point using three anecdotes from the life of Jesus based on the Gospels. Rather than merely repeat what is already in the Bible I'm presenting a picture that precedes or follows the instance recorded in the Bible. So to say, I'm contextualising the incident. The three instances are the interaction with the Syro-Phoenician woman (one of my favourite Gospel narratives), the meeting and conversation with the rich young man and the multiplication of bread and fish. I only hope the Brothers latch on to the idea and we get moving as soon as possible. We barely have two weeks to get our act together. The best part of this: it's written keeping the Brothers in mind and not the guests!

Consoling indicators

This day's house assembly and all that I heard therein was very very consoling and encouraging. That it should come at a time when I'm seriously thinking of reorganising myself and my strategies in encountering the Brothers and helping them interiorize the formation imparted, is very helpful. It has been experience that I'm fighting a losing battle. Little or nothing seems to be making impact. However, the personal evaluation that was partially tabulated and presented during the house assembly this evening was a clear indication that Brothers are sincerely making an effort, may not be collectively but certainly individually. Of course, the fact remains that most of them are too scared to take a stand in common or in public. But atleast individually they see the values that we have been hammering all the while. At least they acknowledge the fact that good is offered and they need to live up to it.

Wow! Great feeling... to feel our hard work creating ripples, if not in groups or courses, but certainly in individuals. Thank you Lord!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Of father and son

It was a long time ago that I watched this particular video about an aging father and his young son. Just a couple of minutes but very powerful and touching. I came across it again today. It teaches a great lesson in humility and patience to all children and young people, especially towards elders, and more specifically towards our own aging parents. Thanks to Papa and Mummy!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Snacks for snakes

On Sunday a group of youngsters from one of our neighbouring villages came over for a friendly cricket match with our Brothers. The Brothers in charge of that village coordinated the game and our Brothers did win the game too. At the end of the day, when submitting the ministry report, I received this compliment:
Thank you Brother for ... and providing tea and snakes for our youngsters.
I must have provided the snakes with the snacks then!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Being models

The readings of the day speak about being models and the responsibility of being role models.... models in word, deed and life. The failure to be one is a grave sin. Parents are to be role models to children; children to their companions; Priests to all people of God; employees to their responsibilities...

In stark contrast to this reflection was the experience I had this evening. As I sat in my office I saw a family of quite a few adults and a small girl enter the campus. As I saw the excitement on the face of the ladies when they saw the beautiful flowers, I knew something would go wrong. The next instant I saw the small girl reach out and pluck a flower right infront of her parents and others. I rushed out of my office and said in a loud and clear voice: no touching plants and flowers. When I repeated my statement again, the father of the girl replies, "after all, she's a small girl" to which I retorted, "but you are not, I suppose! So tell her the right things." That silenced him. I was later told by the Brothers that they were some big shots from the city. I was upset all the more: if educated and well-to-do people could behave in such an irresponsible manner what of the illiterate and those who have no opportunity for a formal education in civic manners.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Take it or leave it

Here it is, take it or leave it; if you take it you must accept it completely.
That's the option I gave to the eight final year Brothers doing their paper with me. I offered them the simple way and the tough way. Once a choice is made, so will the procedure follow accordingly. To one who was not very clear of the implications of this choice - as always, they would shirk responsibility of making the choice - I stated that to the extent you are willing to commit yourself to work hard and make the most of this academic endeavour, to that extent I will guide you, push you and lead you. As simple as that!

No intention of pouring out my life (committing suicide) for someone so dead.

Differentiating pride from self-confidence

The Gospel of the day speaks of friendship and more specifically about humility. Naturally the sermon of the day was on pride and humility. Pride was described as total reliance on oneself. However, I realised that there is a thin line dividing pride and self-confidence. I would rather believe that self-confidence is trust in oneself. That one is capable of doing things on one's own. Now that's an acknowledgement of the bountiful graces we are already blessed with. And hence, a very positive thing.

Pride, on the other hand, is shutting off the others from lending a helping hand or a total rejection of others, including God. That we are capable is true and good but that does not mean, we should reject the help that comes our way.

Friday, 28 October 2011

John Q: the father

Just watched the movie John Q... very well made. It really raises a lot of questions. However, it does not do any moral policing. All it does is portray the love of a father for his ailing son and shows the extent to which he is willing to go to get his son back to normal health. There are many loopholes in the story but the portrayal of Denzel Washington as the cornered father whose son needs a heart transplant immediately, but is not able to financially support the huge costs, covers up all those gaps! One of the best performances of Denzel Washington. The song during the final credits, The voice inside my heart is superb and truly makes so much sense after the movie.

To provide for his ailing son he takes the emergency room of the same hospital hostage. Only later to made a tough decision to give up his life so that his son can have his heart. The presence of Robert Duvall too is very electrifying. Indeed great actors! Here's the part where the father makes the decision to die so that his son can have his heart.

This sort of courage and determination to go to any length does not come easy. At times it sounds insane and beyond logic or reason. Yet that's the love of a parent. A father and mother know no bounds when it comes to their child.

Birds which never flew

Jerome, a first year student of ours, submitted a poem a couple of days ago to me to be published on the Seminary blog. I happened to read it and found myself rereading it for its quality. I normally have no interest or have no idea about poetry. But this time round, it was the topic and the words expressed that drew me to the content.

He speaks about children on the street and those abandoned to their fate. The title is 'Birds which never flew'. One can read it here.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Living life by crazy rules

I had heard of Steve Jobs' famous Stanford Commencement Lecture of 2005 in bits and pieces, but never read the whole text myself. I did it today... here. It is good. For a person who thought differently and made a life for himself and showed the world the power of passion and determination, the words he uses mean a lot. I liked the part of his life wherein he is fired from the very company he created (Apple)! And yet he does not sit and mourn the rest of his life. He continues to love what he did and the result is that he creates another couple of companies (NeXT and Pixar). That's called living the dream and being passionate. I know not how many of us will have that courage and determination. Most of us play it safe, play it by the rules, thinking that success and happiness is guaranteed thus. However, it takes people like Steve Jobs to show us that life has its own rules ... we just have to follow the heart.

Here's an article that summarises the best of Steve Jobs.

Substitutes for Microsoft Picture Manager in Linux

While I really do not miss anything much of Microsoft, one thing that I really felt lacking in quality was Microsoft Picture Manager. For someone like me who is not adept at Photoshop and neither intends to be, doing some basic touch up on a picture can at times be a herculean task. While with Microsoft, the Picture Manager did best and it was really great. Once I switched over to linux, I really didn't find anything already existing as good and easy as Microsoft Picture Manager... not until today!

I came across two simple and easy methods to fiddle with pictures and photos from linux itself: gthumb and mirage! The former is much better than picture manager of microsoft!

Forever young - Bob Dylan

As I was glancing through the life-story and bits of Steve Jobs' works, I came to know that he loved Bob Dylan and the following song was sung at one of his memorials after his death. Truly beautiful song with wonderful lyrics too.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Cell phone put to use!

During my journeys there have been several occasions when I wished I had a camera to click photos of something I knew are really 'different'. This wish of mine seems somehow to be true since I have with me a cell phone with a camera (how I came in to possess one is a long winding story, though!). This time on my trip to Bangalore and back, I did come across something really hilarious. One such is what I found in the Visakhapatnam railway station... a banner of an official railway stall. Check out the first line! I did click a couple of other photos too, but someone lost them while transferring them to my laptop. Anyway, next time!

In 60 seconds on the Web

Here's an amazing piece of statistics about the web...
I came across this on Free Technology for Teachers. It's amazing how much of information is available on the net. The biggest challenge, unlike yesteryears when sources of information were limited, is to sift through it all and transform this information - that too, worthwhile and necessary information - into knowledge and then gain wisdom!

On Martin Luther and Reformation

Glancing through my daily list of RSS feeds, I came upon this one from The Journeyman's Files. This sounded interesting given the fact that I am dealing with my students about the time when Martin Luther initiated the Reformation, as part of my class on Modern Western Philosophy. The Christian Audio site offers a free audio version of the book of Luther containing his famous writings, especially the controversial 95 theses which ignited the Reformation. Click here to go directly to the download page.

The audio-book also includes the following: The Small Catechism, On Faith and Coming to Christ, On Confession and the Lord's Supper, Of the Office of Preaching, Excerpt from Luther's Tower Experience and
The Last Written Words of Luther.

I also came to know that October 31 is commemorated as the Reformation Day. I know not if the Catholic Church endorses this?! However, let good flow in from all sides!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Metaphysically, yours!

Today was my fist day of class of the second semester, with me handling straight four hours of Metaphyscis, Epistemology, Metaphysics and Modern Western Philosophy ... exactly in that order. It was only at lunch did I really understood what I heard Uncle Jimmy state, years earlier, while at Karunapuram after successive classes on Logic and Theodicy:
Oops what a shift of gears I have to make, given the content of these subjects: one lofty and abstract, the other concrete and practical.

However in a sense, the course that I gave in Medieval Western Philosophy, at KJC last week stands in good stead as I continue teaching the modern era for our Brothers here. The fact that the Modern has barely anything much to do, except in contrast to the medieval, adds greater thrill to what is yet to unfold.

All said and done, the shift from Metaphysics and Epistemology to Modern and back to Metaphysics is quite a jugglery. (The included cartoon is from the following site on Metaphysics Cartoons... gratefully acknowledged.)

Monday, 24 October 2011

Listening to sea shells

As I spend time wallowing in self-pity, trying to get out of it and at the same time, "relishing" that sluggishness, that inability to decide the next strategy to put in place, I came across this interesting fact about sea shells and the unique experience of holding against one's ear:
The roar that we hear when we place a seashell next to our ear is not the ocean, but rather the sound of blood surging through the veins in the ear. Any cup-shaped object placed over the ear produces the same effect.
However in my present state of mind and body I wish to hear something more than my own blood boiling! Hope I'm listening!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

A bit of grumbling...

Back in Kondadaba, life is already in full swing. We had the youth retreat this day... tiring and hopefully impact-filled for the 160 youth who attended the retreat. Personally for me, it was very tiresome. Not that I did anything for the retreat. Far from that, I was only supervising.

What drained me today was some of things I witnessed Brothers upto, that too immediately after the retreat. I arrived here last evening and very many told me that they liked the retreat and it did them good. But their behaviour and actions, showed little or no change at all, least of all their thought pattern or attitudes.

The worst I felt was when I saw so many of them clamouring to meet a particular Sister who was part of the retreat team, who according to many, shared with them their past and deepest thoughts. I realised this was true even last year too. But what pissed me off, was that our Brothers, at least quite a few of them, were only 'thrilled' by this...not moved by it. This whole experience, the retreat experience, remains at the emotional or feeling level. It does not percolate to deeper levels and help them review their life and take stock of situations. It does not help them form, or atleast make effort at forming, convictions.

Very many use their petty idea of spirituality and prayer as a shield justify their reason to be in the Seminary and enough reason to be Priests. Perhaps the Brothers cannot be blamed entirely too. They join the seminary for varied reasons and when they see that consecrated life is the easiest way of living a luxurious life (eating the cake and having it too) being lived out by their elders and those who are to be challenging role models, they justify their lethargy.

Travelling in between 'time'

After a lovely break in KJC, B'lore am back in Kondadaba. The journey back by Prashanti was very amusing and interesting. I had for company several small children. At first I thought that would be the end of my intended rest, but on the contrary it was very relaxing. In the same cabin there was a three and half year old girl, 'yet to learn to speak' said her parents. But I guess she has not been blessed with the gift of speech. All the same very cute and her eyes so expressive. She was very shy and never felt comfortable to venture out of our cabin area. Neither would she interact or go near anyone other than her parents. Even the toddler, the other kid in the cabin, was kept at a distance by her. Her best passtime, all the time, was to sit by the window and watch outside. And of all things passing by, a train speeding by was her greatest delight. Her eyes would sparkle and dance at the sight of a speeding train.

The other toddler was another interesting chap... just a kid of about a year or little more. Surprisingly was very jovial and happy all the while. Never once did he cry during the 26 hour long journey. (However, there was one in the next cabin, who made up for his silence!). He was very comfortable with anyone as long as they smiled.

Only after reaching home and sharing these lovely moments with Sateesh, did it strike me that while on the way to B'lore, it was quite contrary. I was literally surrounded by senior citizens. All the 7 others in the section were above 70... one of them was paralysed below waist. But no regrets... they were very pleasant and though initially skeptical and bit apprehensive about me, were very cordial and thankful when I started helping them for little things which they found difficult with.

On the whole a very relaxing trip to B'lore. Thanks to Mother Mary.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Experimenting with Thinglink

Here are a couple of photos of our Brothers while on their 'forest-lunch' (vanbhojanam) ... one of the last activities of their semester holidays, prior to the commencement of their retreat. However, the real intention of posting these photos is to try out the Thinglink image tagging feature I installed on this blog.

Refreshing change of occupation

The past five days have truly been very relaxing and a great source of refreshment. The timing too is perfect... back at home the Brothers are in the retreat and therefore I need not worry too much about the classes or required things for the daily running. The latter is taken care of already. So what exactly did I do in the past week or so, besides taking classes on Medieval Western Philosophy? Met friends, spent time talking and chatting with confreres, enjoyed the leisurely meals, read the paper end to end, checked out all the starred items in my mail, reader and blog (something that I last did in June this year!) and of course, what I normally do best: sleep!

What 'Steve Jobs'?

I am almost nearing the end of my course on Medieval Western Philosophy for the first year students of Philosophy here in KJC, Bangalore. Tomorrow is the last session. Though it started on quite a dull note, I should say, most of them have picked up and are quite enthusiastic. Today's heated discussion on the Five Ways of Thomas Aquinas was really worth the time and effort. However, some of them had no clue of what was going on. Since they too never made any attempt right since the beginning to understand and get involved, I left them to themselves. I did try to draw them into the discussions or explanation of things, but they preferred to be idle. I choose the lesser evil of leaving them alone rather than drag everyone with them to the least possible.

The most craziest point of the session thus far - know not what surprises await me tomorrow, though - was when I asked them, while explaining some point using the life of Steve Jobs. Looking at their faces, I knew they did not know about whom or what I was talking about. It is then I asked as to how many heard the name 'Steve Jobs'. Only three out of 26, 'heard the name' and only 2 out of the three knew something more than just the name. So much for knowledge of the world, whom they will soon claim to be the leaders of.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Relationship gamble

Speaking of convictions and choices that people make in life, especially religious and Priestly life, I was told that our whole gamut of relationships now depend on exactly this. My students back in Kondadaba, in more than one way, tell me (subtly) that what ultimately matters when back in the diocese is affiliations... to which group do I belong to. To stand alone is to be crushed and cursed. It is difficult for me to see the point. Yet I understand that their main problem is not which group to belong to or affiliate themselves to but their lack of inner depth which will help them take a stand and stick to it, come what may, say what anyone may.
The wrong kind of people hate you for good in you, and right kind of people love you after knowing even the bad in you. That makes a perfect definition for relationship.

Playing chess with God

Here's one quote from Rabbi... not sure where he got it from!
Life is like playing chess with God. After your move, he makes the next move. Your moves are called choices and his moves are called challenges.
In class this morning, I had a chance to speak of this idea of choices that determine our freedom rather than our origin or state of life. I could see that some did get the point, that too quite fast. The same thing took me ages to get across in my classes on Theodicy back at Kondadaba. The context in class this morning was the idea of rationes seminales as proposed by Augustine, while explaining creation.

anxiety!

... and just when I was telling myself that I need to stay positive and not be prejudiced, especially with the group in hand, I come across the following statement:
Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow but empties today of its strength.
Another fact to add strength to this:
... that only 8% of what we worry about ever comes true?
I wish that what I worry about is not part of that 8%.

Religious life and security

I am back in KJC, Bangalore for a course in Philosophy for the first year students... back to where I began this blog a couple of years ago. The batch consists of 26 young men from different congregations. Some of them are quite bright and smart, the rest (most) of them have no idea of what is happening around! I realise that while the secular world is getting more and more competitive, the religious life and consecrated life is getting more and more lethargic. Perhaps it has much to do with the attitude and intention with which young men 'seek refuge' in religious or consecrated life. Fr Wilson's week-long visit to another Philosophate down south too was quite discouraging he says. So I guess it is not an isolated event but a growing trend. To such a group, teaching Philosophy is something like teaching a duckling to fly - leave alone, get it to the pond for a swim. What I am most concerned is that these young men will sooner or later be leaders of the Christian communities and then...?

Thursday, 13 October 2011

When 'treasure' and 'hunt' parted ways...

Today, along with Sateesh, I organised the treasure hunt for the Brothers. The first and second course Brothers had no idea of what it was all about - they had never played this before. So I suppose it was some fun for them. However the best part of the whole game was that while it took both of us nearly 4 hours to set the trails, one of the (two) groups reached the 'Treasure' within 15 minutes of the start. I just could not understand how they could manage to do it. However, I went after the other group, just to keep an eye on them since there was one clue which they had to retrieve from a deep well. I wanted to ensure that they do not do anything foolish or hazardous. But by the time I reached the second group, a few of them had already the penultimate slip in their hands... without any of the other slips/clues! But about 17 of them did have a good round of the whole place and had a real 'hunt'. The rest of them reached back home within half an hour and were most probably 'plucking blackberries'! Later I realised that a couple of them had strayed and 'discovered' a clue... the last one which led them straight to the treasure! Poor guys, missed out the whole fun... so I thought, but not many of them! Some were glad it got over quick.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Being chosen; being consecrated

I know not if there is a big difference - theologically or not - between being chosen and being consecrated. I really haven't read about these two concepts from that frame of mind, ever ... so I really do not know the difference. But listening to the explanation of the gospel of the other day, the preacher having strayed from the main theme - as usual - made me reflect on these two words. Is it that those chosen by God are 'automatically' consecrated? Or is it that there is only a 'special' group within those called, to whom consecration is 'gifted'?

The Israelites from time immemorial claimed to be the chosen race. Yet, going by the Bible (especially the New Testament), when the time came, they did not believe nor recognise. Now we Christians claim to be the chosen ones of God - whatever that may mean! What guarantee that we we now recognise the Lord? ... that we would believe in that what is right?

In the same lines, does consecration of a person or race, mean that all that he or they do is sanctified? If not, how does consecration work or what does it mean?

The more I reflect on these ideas, the more I feel that it is the person concerned, that ultimately makes the choice. The final decision is in the hands of the person. This may make God a secondary entity. Well, apparently this line of thought does put me over God. But a little more careful observation of this fact will reveal that even in this situation wherein the person is given the right to make the final decision, God's supremacy is intact for He is the one who is offering us this choice. That's a very costly gift... and a heavy responsibility too.

De-focussing

The washing machines of yesteryears had only a unidirectional swirl. Then came the 'twirl' - that which twists and turns the clothes not just in the same direction but in the opposite as well, from time to time. Something akin to that is the whole recommendation given to those who have to sit long before computer screens: after a 20-25 minute work, look around for a minute or two at objects or things at varying lengths. The idea is the eye gets some exercise from 're-focussing'.

Something similar to that is what I asked Br Sateesh to introduce into the Biblical quiz we had this night. I asked him to introduce a round of questions by and to the participants themselves. Each group asks the next one, a question... rather than the quiz master. Just a simple strategy to reverse the order of thought and movement in order to make a better and clearer sense of the original/normal direction.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Learning the hard way

The hard dose that I administered for the final year students was showing its signs this morning as most of them were watching me but were careful to avoid eye contact. One of the most powerful impact of last night's events was the breaking point of one of them. He really felt he had it enough and would no more stand by his classmates for their lack of sincerity and commitment to the choice of this life. Listening to him pour out his anguish was like reliving my first and greatest shock on entry into the aspirantate at Gunadala. When I had entered the aspirantate straight from home, I had a truly utopian idea of 'seminarians' - looking back, I can now call it utopian, back then it was like 'how could it be anything otherwise'. Well, that taught me the first lesson of consecrated life: 'consecrated' life is only on paper. In reality, it is more of 'desecrated' life! Having gone through that painful experience and built on that, I was able to understand his anguish and frustration.

I hope he learns his lessons well and builds on that.

Freedom accompanying freedom?

Here's another great philosophical insight I never could have managed to get even after celebrating my platinum jubilee teaching Philosophy:
The gift of freedom is always accompanied by freedom.
Now I could have very well passed it off as a mistake or error of words. But no! The Brother who wrote this had an explanation for this! Yes, this statement! Now that's when a student surpasses the teacher... into insanity!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

"Leaders" of the Church

Tonight I let the third years have a piece of my mind... I know not what impact it will have, or it will have an impact at all or not. The final crux of the issue, I concluded with, after having heard and debated and argued over their reasons and my justification to be angry at their lack lustre performance in their theme presentations, was this:
You expect me to believe and be faithful to a 'Church' the leaders of which I know are happily ignorant, perfectly lazy and solemnly wallowing in their own slush, rather than give their best to the community - leave alone, God - the community, which trusts them as men of God and prayer. Leaders who will show them the depths of spirituality and the magnificent meaning of union with God. You still want me to go to such kind of a 'Church'? Attend services, receive sacraments, participate in Mass, pay attention to sermons, go to confession and be 'faithful' to my Christian vocation?

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Vows for doctors and Immortal blindness

To help the students - or rather 'drive' the students - to read, study and reflect something and gain something out of their three years of study of Philosophy, the staff this year changed the methodology of the final B.Ph. paper. Rather than a research work, we adopted a reflective study mode. The students were given a set of twelve themes, two from each of the six treatises, at the beginning of the year. They were supposed to read, reflect and write the answer to those 12 questions, BY THEMSELVES, and submit them by the end of the semester. Next semester they are to summarise a book, just one book and apply these 12 themes to that book. That was the approach. A couple of days ago the Brothers submitted their themes. Most them, mind you 'most of them', merely got their neighbour's answer and copied it. And where did the neighbour get it from, of course, his neighbour. There were just a handful of them really working on the themes during the semester, in spite of repeated reminders and instructions from the Principal. The net result is evident. I now have some samples, just a couple of them, from the first four sets of papers I went through, today...

Here's one Brother, who copied another's example of a Priest's choice of life. He merely changes the word 'Priest' in his paper. Here's how the example begins:
For example, I have chosen to become a doctor and I should accept the life of doctor like poverty, chastity and obedience. (emphasis added)
Wow! What would become of the world, if all doctors begin to live the vows!!

From the same Brother's answer sheet, here's another. This time he is speaking of evil and 'trying' to exalt God - that's what the question was about - explaining reasons how and why God can be exalted in spite of the existence of evil.
Blindness is a physical evil, it can exalt God. If there is no blindness for beings then we would be immortal which God alone can be.
I never really could understand what blindness has got to do with immortality, until I read the next lot of answers. Another Brother had the same statement, albeit, the evil therein was 'death'. It then dawned on me that my good friend had merely replaced 'death' with 'blindness'!

There surely will be more along the way, but none better than these I believe... anyway, hoping against hope!!!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Be the miracle

During my classes on Theodicy, more than once this topic of miracles came up. For very many people, miracles are really great and wondrous things that happen only once in a way and that too to manifest God's great power. While I have no problem in agreeing to the latter, I certainly am not convinced about the former concept.

It is at times as these that the quote from the movie Bruce Almighty comes to my mind:
Parting a soup is not a miracle, Bruce. It's a magic trick. Now, a single mom who works two full-time jobs, and still finds the time to pick up her kid at soccer practice, that's a miracle. A teenager that says "no" to drugs and "yes" to an education, that's a miracle. You want to see a miracle, son? Be the miracle.
I've shared this with the Brothers too. But somehow, their idea of miracle is only that happens during charismatic prayer services amidst all that 'hullabaloo'. My comment on those 'occurrences' as 'magic performed in the Church' infuriates them all the more.

Here's the video clip of the above quote:

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Earth's grandeur

I'm surprised I did not include this quote of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, in my collection, even though this has been one of the most inspirational quote since long:
Earth's crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God, but only he who sees takes off his shoes; the rest sit round and pluck blackberries.
These words make me wonder what exactly am I doing with my life: enjoying the beauty of life or just sitting pretty tight and swatting flies?

English at its best!

Here's a real gem from the English conversational exam held today under the guidance of Fr Rector. As two 'scholars' of English conversed, Fr Rector asked them to frame a statement in active voice and the other to change that to passive voice:
Br A: I climbed the tree.
Br B: The tree climbed on me.
Fr KT says he was privileged to hear quite a few such 'insights'. However, we never progressed beyond this one. We just couldn't...!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Sustaining changes

In his homily this morning, Fr KT used a very beautiful analogy to drive home his point. He was speaking of changing one's life and attitudes for the better and more importantly offering help to sustain those changes. He used the analogy of the caterpillar that transforms into a beautiful butterfly after it period of hibernation in the cocoon. As a caterpillar, it just eats and eats lot - but only leaves. Once it transforms into a butterfly, something so different from what it was earlier - it sustains the change, mainly by changing its food habit. It no more eats leaves. It merely feasts on nectar (The picture is that of a tiger swallowtail butterfly).

Moral: Wish to sustain changes you adopt in life, change your feeding (thinking) habits!

Perseverance of St Francis

The little poverello, as he is called, St Francis of Assissi was indeed a giant in holiness. His life always fascinates. Simple yet radical; never imposing but powerfully inspirational. The fact that as a young man he was anything but interested in Christ or spirituality. The changeover, though slow, was firm and sure. As I always believe, what most of us lack is not the moment of conversion, but the perseverance to sit through the darkness and anxiety that follows during which God asks us to let Him guide us. Just like St Paul encountering Christ on the road to Damascus, the real journey begins when he awaits to regain his sight. That's the real point of conversion.

Having encountered the Lord, there was nothing that would stop him from being His and His totally. I wonder how many of us will have that courage and strength to leave everything and trust in Him alone. Among the many things that he inspires me with, for today it is this ability to persevere in a chosen path of life... not just change for a day or two but be willing to tread the path, come what may!

Monday, 3 October 2011

The ant philosophy

You can check the original here. Written by Jim Rohn.
  1. Ants – they never quit! Try and stop them, and they will look for another way. They will climb up, climb under, climb around. They never quit looking for a way. If they are headed somewhere, they will get there.
  2. Ants – they think winter all summer long. Don’t think nice when it is nice. Things are easy in the summer time. It’s warm. Resources are readily available. But the ant is thinking about gathering and working during this time. Think ahead.
  3. Ants – they think summer all winter long. They say, “This won’t last long, we will soon be out of here.” When the first warm day comes, the ants are out! First warm day and… the ants are out!
  4. And finally, how much will an ant gather during the summer to prepare for the winter? All that he possibly can. What an incredible philosophy, the "all-that-you-possibly-can" philosophy.

The rape of God

Today as I sat for the Theodicy exam with the third year students (oral), I felt ashamed of myself. The answers of the Brothers were so mediocre and senseless, not just to me but worse, to themselves! I felt so ashamed of having taught them this subject with such zeal and fervour. They literally raped God right in front of my eyes, one by one and all I did was hung my head in shame. Their ideas of the subject were so weird or unrelated that any one with the minimal of common sense would kick them in the place where it pains the most.

Here are some of their thoughts:
  • Evil is some higher perfect good.
  • Evolution is from a single cell which is transcendent and that is God.
  • Polytheism started 400 years ago. (I, like in every such statement, asked: sure? You mean, it started in 1500 or so? Yes, came the confident reply!)
  • Leibniz proposed the idea of 'anticipated world' (God alone knows what that is! or which Leibniz was he talking about!)
  • When there is good, evil will attack.
  • God is a silent, community, idolatry, particular...
  • God as crotch! (Crotch or crutch?. No Brother, it is crotch.)
  • Moral evil is due to order in the universe.
  • Physical evil is caused by bad - due to perfection.

Risking God's closeness

Today's readings form an interesting combo: Jonah and the parable of the Good Samaritan. Fr Wilson rightly asked what would be the commonality in the two most gripping narrations in the Bible. He stated that it was the fear of responsibility that was common in both the narrations. Jonah was fleeing Yahweh and the Priest and the Levite from the parable too were escaping the direct responsibility that God was placing before them.

Both these instances offer a very revealing insight into our human relationship. We love God from afar. We dearly desist coming close to Him - or Him close to us. For that is too risky an affair; that closeness demands a lot from us. It involves risk, responsibility and commitment - the very things we shirk away from. We love to keep our lives small and peaceful. Letting God into our lives is living with a turbulence. He constantly challenges us, never letting us just be the minimal we can be and do.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Price of being a Catholic

Today on more than one occasion the difficulty of 'retaining' the Catholic laity cropped up in our discussions. The difficulty was that people are steady and in large numbers too, leaving the Catholic Church, either with an explicit choice for non-Catholic but Christian denominations or just don't appear in Church anymore. While I do not wish to comment on the first reason, I do believe one of strong reasons for the latter is the following: Christianity has too 'lists of dos and dont's' There are the sacraments to adhere to, the Sunday obligation to fulfil, the feast day attendance at the Church and for procession, the approval of the Parish Priest for all of these and more... Hinduism, on the other hand, has very little or no such binding obligations at all. One need not go to any temple all his life, a lady may never practice most of the rites and rituals of a Hindu rite, yet they can very well claim to be a Hindu. No one would accuse them of 'leaving' Hinduism. Perhaps this is another reason why Hinduism is viewed more as a 'way of life' than a structured religion. Catholicism demands much, while general Hinduism expects nothing much!

About ants and rentals

Here's a nice joke (thanks to Fr Koshy for passing it on):

An ant knocks on the door of a house. The house owner opens the door. "I want a place to stay," said the ant. "I have a vacant room which you can occupy for free of cost," said the owner. The ant went inside and occupied the vacant room. After some days, the ant brought in another ant and requested to the owner, "Can you please allow this ant to stay with me?" "Oh sure, you can do so without paying any rent," said the owner. After some more days, the ant brought one more ant and requested the owner to allow the ant to stay with it. The owner agreed to it without asking for any rent. This continued as the ant brings in one more and and the owner agrees for it.

One fine day, the ant brought in a tenth ant and requested the owner to allow him also to stay with it. The owner said, "OK, you can all stay here but you all need to pay rent." Now the question is: Why did the owner ask for rent when the last ant came in? Because they are now tenants!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

The two silver coins...

This morning prior to my departure to the town for some work, the cooks asked me to deposit part of their provident fund collection in the bank to their earlier collection and make it into an FD (fixed deposit). The sum that they collectively handed over in cash to me, was about Rs 15,000. Add to that another 35,000 each (of three of them). And when I jokingly said that today I certainly am a rich man, they sincerely told me: "Brother, if you really need money you can use this amount. We do not need it immediately so you might very well use it for the Seminary now." I was fooling, but they weren't! I was quite touched by their generosity. Though it would not even suffice for our basic provisions for the month, they were offering me their hard earnings of 5 years - just like that! And didn't Jesus appreciate the widow who dropped in the two silver coins!!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

From the pan to the fire!

Just when you think that you have sorted it all out and are ready to start things with better involvement and vigour, you are entrusted with something that is equally and additionally demanding. Such has been my experience... always, even today!

Lord, please help me!

On prayer... & God

The concluding class of the Philosophy of God was a real finale! During the course of the final revision and general clarifications, the topic of prayer and its utility came up, again. The argument and discussion went on for quite some time. My whole emphasis was on living prayer than merely a 'sitting prayer' - mere vocal list of petitions while in the Church. What actually triggered the discussion to the point of frenzy and emotional outbursts was when I, in my regular enthusiasm - termed the latter form of prayer 'bullshit'. However, throughout the discussion I could gather that the Brothers were attentive to what I was speaking. Though had they really been attentive to what I was saying all along the semester, this would not have come as a surprise.

My whole contention was that prayer has to follow an effort on my part. I just cannot simply pray and do that alone! That according to me is an insult to God - a God who has empowered me and blessed me with a super-abundance of gifts and graces so that I can make a difference in this world. So prior to my asking God to do things, I need to do my bit. Without that I cannot just ask God to do things for me, while all that I do is sit in the Chapel (when I go to the Chapel, only) and utter words. Such a prayer would according to me, be an insult to God and a sure act of defence of my own laziness.

Then, there was a brief discussion on the content of prayer itself. In other words, what do I pray for. Furthermore the idea that God need not answer my prayers was another thing my students could not digest. I said, when I pray, I leave the choice to God to answer them or not. Their immediate question: 'Why pray then?' (The answer to that has already been given in the book of Harold Kushner, When bad things happen to good people.)

Monday, 26 September 2011

Fear to stand alone

This evening I had a very engaging discussion with two of my students, both freshers. Discussing with them some basic values and issues which I have long been harping upon, I realised the amount of fear they have within ... fear of standing alone. One of their greatest fears is being shunned by their own friends, diocese or course companions... They simply dread it. It is because of this that they prefer to be subservient to those who start rumours, those who instigate the rest and are able to generate talk.

I did my best to help them see that just because it is so, does not mean it is right to be so. Convictions are something that each one needs to have and stand by. The cost of standing by them may be high but if we do not stand by any of them, then is such a life worth living at all? They wish to live an ideal life but fear the opinion, talk, rumours, and the label of being 'proud' and 'idealist'.
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